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‘Queen’s Counsel or Spin Doctor?’ By Konris Maynard MP
For sometime now my colleagues and supporters have intimated to me that commentaries and public utterances by the esteemed Charles Wilkin QC over the years have been camouflaged as fair and balanced. However, when fully unmasked the commentaries reveal a deep‐seated contempt for the former Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas. I, however, was prepared to give the learned QC the benefit of the doubt post the 2015 elections. Then, I saw a recent commentary entitled “Comments on Virdee Matters Arising” by Charles Wilkin QC.
For the unsuspecting reader, who has the inclination to give the QC the respect that he has indeed earned over the years, the commentary can come across as a nonpartisan inquiry into the actions of Governments past and present regarding this quagmire our country finds itself in today with this bribery scandal involving Dr. Timothy Harris.
However, what I gather from the commentary is that in the face of an international scandal that has already forced one of the two named Caribbean Ministers of Government involved to resign, and a scandal that threatens to further strengthen international perceptions that our Caribbean Governments have all corrupt politicians, Charles Wilkin QC could not resist the urge to relitigate the actions of the former Prime Minister whom an electorate has already made judgment on regarding the last stewardship of a Labour Party Administration.
In his opening, Wilkin gives Prime Minister Harris a soft pass by stating that he is ‘not in a position to say whether the allegations made by Virdee against our PM are true or not’. However, he spends a large part of the commentary passing judgment on the former Prime Minister with his handling of the CBI program. Mr. Wilkin goes on to ask for full disclosure on several matters such as investments made or sought, businesses sought, Government responses, meetings with present or former Government Officials, citizenship granted, name of economic citizens with Diplomatic Passports, etc. Really? Can any of these disclosures justify Dr. Timothy Harris begging for and demanding an expensive watch or a pair of shoes or a big dinner and an after party according to the UK billionaire? Can these disclosures wash away the international smear and embarrassment that our Prime Minister, Dr. The Hon. Timothy Harris, was named and identified in court documents surrounding a judicial review case in the Royal Court of Justice in the UK where a court says “Without going into particulars, and putting the matter at its very lowest, we have no doubt that a judge considering the passages we have quoted would regard them as capable of giving rise to a reasonable inference that the claimants were willing in principle to make corrupt gifts and to pay bribes, but felt that the Caribbean politicians with whom they were dealing were asking for too much?” Can these disclosures somehow improve the image of our Governance practices when in nearby Antigua & Barbuda, in short time, the other named Minister in the court transcripts has resigned while pleading his innocence, clearly putting the Country first before personality?
In every advanced democracy, this level of implied wrongdoing certified by a court, supported by irrefutable facts, along with glaring international spotlight, almost always results in resignations and/or suspensions FIRST and then full disclosures after thorough investigations. Is the learned QC suggesting that we go through a process of full disclosure while everything remains the same? Which best practice is this???
A request for full disclosure is a smoke screen and a diversion to give Dr. Timothy Harris time to sort himself out.
In fact, I am of the firm view that the commentary by the QC can amount to a serious dereliction of his civic duty where he attempts to conflate the issue of a probable criminal act under UK law with the issue of controversial local Government Policy and Procedures with regards to the CBI. I refer specifically to the Bribery Act 2010 in the UK. Section 6 is “Bribery of Foreign Public Officials”. Subsections 1 and 2 state:
(1) A person (“P”) who bribes a foreign public official (“F”) is guilty of an offence if P’s intention is to influence F in F’s capacity as a foreign public official.
(2) P must also intend to obtain or retain—
(a) business, or
(b) an advantage in the conduct of business.
I am no Queen’s Counsel, but it appears to me that the UK court has agreed that there is probable cause when in Paragraph 87 of the judgement the court says in part, after first citing the transcripts found in paragraphs 11‐13 (which talk about the bribe gifts), “Any judge hearing the applications would inevitably have concluded that there were reasonable grounds for believing that one or more indictable offences had been committed.”
Why is it important to find out all of this information requested by the QC before making judgement that the mere inclusion of Dr. Harris as a possible recipient of bribes does irreparable harm to the image of this Government and the country? Will your judgment on Dr. Timothy Harris’ alleged behavior change whether someone became an economic citizen or a diplomatic passport holder 2 years ago or 4 years ago?
Another important observation is that the actual name of Dr. Timothy Harris is never mentioned by Mr. Wilkin in the commentary. On the contrary, Dr. Douglas is called by name three times. I would not be surprised if this were strategic so that Google searches for Timothy Harris do not bring up this article.
Even more glaring is that the QC said that “with his new mood of transparency” Dr. Douglas should not mind if the Government releases the names of all economic citizens that Dr. Douglas gave diplomatic passports. Well sir, why not also ask for all diplomatic passports issued by this government as well? Could the QC not conceal a little better this intentional attempt to once again besmirch the former Prime Minister? He has already lost the Government for crying out loud! What on God’s green earth does this have to do with a mendicant Prime Minister Harris caught in the act?
Again, these issues are immaterial to the bribery issue at hand and should not change the fact that the world now sees in court documents and wire tapped transcripts that our Prime Minister, Dr. The Hon. Timothy Harris is susceptible to bribes and may have received the first tranche of bribery in the form of an overpriced expensive watch, shoes, food and after parties.
The only proper thing for Dr. Timothy Harris to do is resign.
Where the QC and I agree though is that there is an urgent need for campaign finance laws. Politicians in modern St. Kitts‐Nevis must not be controlled by a few who have deep pockets. Campaign finance laws will be an important improvement in strengthening the credibility of our electoral process and I am willing to be part of any genuine attempt to usher in this level of transparency.
In conclusion, I must say, I am not surprised at Mr. Wilkin’s commentary. Rather, it provides for me solid proof that even Queen’s Counsels can bowl spin!